On his way out the door last night, my father, the one who taught me everything I know about being a Pats fan, put his hand on my slumped shoulder, looked into my dejected face with his own expression of genuine concern and said, "Remember. It's only entertainment."
I guess you could say I took this one hard. Real hard. Like, "I knew I should've stayed away from the Internet and even promised my family I would after the game but couldn't resist getting sucked into flame wars anyway" hard. Like, "typed and deleted the first sentence of this blog post over and over and over last night" hard.
See, it's not that I assumed or took for granted that the Patriots would win (despite assumptions otherwise by the fans of other teams who have come gleefully out of the woodwork to kick whatever Pats fans they can find while we're down). It's that I knew since last Sunday, when we found out who the Patriots' opponent would be, that a loss would be absolutely unbearable.
Because it's not just about losing -- it's also about losing, when it really mattered, to THEM.
Animosity toward Jets in my household reaches all-time high
A perfect example of the type of thing that had me madder last night, to quote a certain famous Cable Guy, than a one-legged waitress at the IHOP, was when the Jets put the final nail in the coffin with a touchdown that made it 28-14 with less than two minutes to play. Once he'd scored the TD, Shonn Greene made a great show of putting the ball down on the ground and laying down with his head on it like it was a pillow, a gesture for which he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The disgust I feel right now toward the very concept that is the Jets is very real.
And to get back to the whole 'entitled' thing, let me just emphasize one more time that I know my team's not going to win a championship every year. I know they're not going to win every big game. But to actually vindicate all the immaturity and crap-talking on the other side of this particular rivalry by handing over a bitter loss on our own home field -- in other words, to allow the likes of Antonio Cromartie and Bart Scott to leave Foxboro feeling good about themselves -- that's the part that I really can't stand.
Rationality slow to set in, "WTF happened?" questions quick to come to mind
Meanwhile, some Patriots fans have already fallen back on long memory to put the loss in perspective -- after all, when this season began, the words "transition year" were on everybody's lips. Some especially resilient glass-half-full types even thought the near-comeback at the very end of this game -- ultimately, the Patriots' last stand of the 2010 season -- bodes well for the 2011 season, which will be kicked off by a draft rife with more picks for the Pats.
Me? I'll probably come around to that eminently reasonable point of view eventually. But not before it's been 24 hours since the Jets showboated their way off our field.
Right now, I'm still thinking, how much more of an anticlimax could the Pats have delivered in finishing out the year? Right now, I'm still wondering what happened, during the weeks between beating Miami to finish the season 14-2 and this game, to our promising young football team? What happened, also, to Tom Brady, whose accuracy was quite literally unmatched until it was called for in the most important game of the year?
What happened to the superb coaching that brought the team to where it was on Sunday in the first place? What happened to clock management, especially in the fourth quarter? What happened to the steady pattern of improvement from one game to the next, the dogged and thorough preparation, and especially, to the crisp execution?
Again, it's really not that I took for granted that the Pats were going to win -- but there is still a feeling of shock. It feels like just as the unlikely story of the 2010 season was getting good, it abruptly ended, mid-sentence, and at the hands of a group of guys who sure looked a lot like the Patriots I'd been watching for the last six weeks, but didn't act like them for even one full minute of this entire game.
Okay, yeah, but what really did happen to the Pats?
In part the "what happened?" questions are rhetorical, but I am aware there are some literal answers. And yes, grudgingly, I'll give credit where it is due, first and foremost to the Jets defense, who, despite the fact that they spent the week acting like mentally challenged parolees, covered Brady's receivers well enough to hand him his first INT in something like 3 million passing attempts (look it up yourself, you know where Google is and I'm in no mood). At the same time, they also rushed Brady relentlessly enough to record five sacks, coincidentally a new Jets team record.
How lovely for them.
There were also so many opportunities inexplicably missed by the Patriots yesterday that I'd crash the Internet trying to record them all. But in the meantime, quick poll, Pats fans -- at least those of you not still drunkenly sobbing in a corner -- which play would you give almost anything to have back, the Patrick Chung flub on the fake punt, or the touchdown Alge Crumpler dropped in the end zone during the second quarter?
Sigh. Anyway. Then there was the Patriots defense, particularly the defensive backs, who appeared to have no answer for Jets receivers, particularly Santonio Holmes, who was matched up against the thoroughly mediocre Kyle Arrington.
When this mismatch resulted in a fourth-quarter TD for the Jets, my dad remarked how much the play had looked like the one that won Super Bowl XLII for the Giants. And how much Arrington had looked like XLII's most-victimized Patriots DB, Ellis Hobbs -- right down to the same number on his jersey.
The resonances between that loss and this one seem to have been on the mind of many a Pats fans today, as discussions turned to debates comparing the two losses, and which was worse. For me, there will probably never be a worse loss, a bigger letdown, or a more infuriating aftermath involving a football game than finishing 18-1 in the year of "Spygate". At least, I hope.
But yesterday's defeat was without a doubt the worst since the last-minute devastation of that Super Bowl three years ago. And despite the fact that this apparently makes me just another entitled, evil Patriots fan, it's going to take me more than a day to get over, no matter how many trophies the team has recently brought home.